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Utility firms to be held to account for potholes

Potholes

Utility companies will be held to account for pot holes on their sites, under new proposals tabled by transport secretary Chris Grayling. 

Companies will be forced to repair road surfaces for up to five years if potholes develop on the site of roadworks, say the proposals. Utility firms’ roadworks  are currently only guaranteed for two years. 

The proposals are now open for an eight-week public consultation. 

The launch of the consultation follows an inquiry launched in August by the Commons Transport Select Committee into the “plague of potholes” which has led to a three-year high in vehicle breakdowns.

Highways technology company Gaist managing director Paula Claytonsmith welcomes increasing roadworks guarantees.

“[Utility firms] do not want to be seen by their customers as cutting up the roads and leaving them in a bad state,” she said. “So with good utilities companies that want to leave a good quality surface I do not think that increasing [the guarantee] from two to five [years] will make that much difference.”

Other proposals to tackle potholes include allowing the use of innovative surfacing materials, such as asphalt with a high bitumen content which can is less prone to potholing.

In evidence to the transport select committee, Claytonsmith presented analysis by Gaist which revealed 18% of all UK classified roads had some form of damage, pothole or other defect.

At the launch of the consultation, Grayling said: “Potholes are the biggest enemy for road users and this government is looking at all options to keep our roads in the best condition.

“Road surfaces can be made worse by utility companies, so imposing higher standards on repairs will help keep roads pothole-free for longer.”

The consultation launch follows last month announced by the Department for Transport of a £22.9M testing programme of new road surfaces and technologies, such as plastic roads in Cumbria.

In addition, chancellor Phillip Hammond announced an extra £420M for road maintenance for the 2018 to 2019 financial year in his November budget, increasing the pothole repair and roads maintenance budget to £6.6bn from 2015 to 2020.

A recent report from the RAC Foundation shows that some local authorities are using a new risk-based approach to dealing with potholes so they can target road repairs at potholes putting road users at most risk. Assessments consider the width and depth of a pothole, the type of road it is on, the volume of traffic and the mix of road users.

Experts have previously warned that poor quality roads with potholes could hold back the progress of autonomous vehicle development.

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